Asphalt Urban GT Updated Hands-On

We test-drive a work-in-progress version of this Nintendo DS launch title.

Currently scheduled for release before the launch of the Nintendo DS later this month, Asphalt Urban GT is a street racing game that will let you take control of licensed vehicles from around 14 different manufacturers and speed around a number of very different locales. We recently received a work-in-progress version of the game from Ubisoft, and we have spent some time checking out its numerous gameplay modes. Since we only have one copy of the game, we've been unable to check out any multiplayer features (Asphalt Urban GT doesn't support single cart "DS Download Play"), but we're pleased to report that the single-player options have proved (and continue) to be very engaging.

You'll rarely have an opportunity to check out the map while racing.

Our first port of call was the game's arcade mode, which actually comprises five different gameplay options: a randomly selected "instant play" race against seven opponents; a three-race "road challenge" series; a "free race" in the car and on the track of your choice; a "time attack" with no opponents or traffic; and a "cop chase" mode that sticks a blue light on top of your car and challenges you to pursue seven other cars and make them stop by keeping them in your radar sights (directly in front of you) for three seconds. The gameplay across the five arcade modes isn't terribly varied, of course, but they're different enough that you'll inevitably end up spending time with each one at some point.

The real time consumer in Asphalt Urban GT, though, will certainly be its "evolution" career mode. Like the Gran Turismo series and so many of its imitators, the evolution mode will award you cash for winning races, which can then be spent either on upgrading the cars in your garage or on purchasing new ones. The car-tuning options in the game are quite extensive, and they afford you the opportunity to throw money at your chosen vehicle's turbo kit, exhaust and air intake systems, engine block, transmission, brakes, suspension, and tires. Money can also be spent reducing the weight of your cars, painting them different colors, or giving them race car makeovers that do absolutely nothing for their performance, but which look much more impressive than the showroom models, thanks to all manner of spoilers, body kits, and multicolored paint jobs. The manufacturers that we've seen in the game to date, include Aston Martin, Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Hummer, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lotus, Morgan, Nissan, Saleen, Shelby, TVR, and Volkswagen--most of which only have one or two instantly recognizable models available for purchase.

The car-transporter ramps can both help and hinder your chances of winning.

On the track, Asphalt Urban GT can count varied course designs, challenging opponents, and good arcade-style handling among its features, and we can testify that winning a race in the game will require you to do a lot more than just depress the accelerator button and steer left and right with the directional pad (there are no touch-screen control options). For one thing, you'll have up to five nitro boosts at your disposal at any time, and the speed at which these replenish is determined by how skillfully you're driving and sliding around corners, and by bonuses that you get for crashing through destructible trackside objects and by narrowly missing traffic. You'll also notice that there are a number of empty car-transporter trucks driving around the courses that can be used as ramps. Hitting one of these mobile ramps (triggering a brief, dynamic camera change in the process) can either result in you literally leapfrogging opponents or crashing straight into a barrier, so they will need to be used with caution.

Visually, Asphalt Urban GT still looks a little rough around the edges, but the game's locales are every bit as varied and recognizable as the vehicles in which you'll be racing. The Las Vegas courses, for example, will afford you an opportunity to speed past hotels such as Treasure Island and New York-New York. Other circuits we've raced on have taken place in such eclectic settings as Cuba, New York, Miami, Paris, Bogota Airport, Hong Kong, and Chernobyl.

Expect a full review of Asphalt Urban GT just as soon as we get our hands on a finished version of the game.

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